Study shows dogs and toddlers similar in social intelligence

Posted at 5:51 AM, May 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-30 07:23:56-04

Have you ever wondered what your dog is thinking? Or, more to the point, if your dog can tell what you are thinking? A growing body of research is proving our pooches are not only smart, but may be able to pick up non-verbal cues, too.

Like most dog owners, April Ruiz believes her beloved Ben is a canine Einstein. She says, "Ben has always been the type of dog who pays attention to us." Not just for verbal commands, April believes he is intuitive. When he encounters new situations, he looks at her and April feels he looks to her for information.

To prove Ben can pick-up on non-verbal cues, April took him to the Yale Canine Cognition Center run by psychologist Laurie Santos. Dr. Santos says, dogs have much more social intelligence than expected. She says, "Dogs are very good at picking upon on human social information, and they seem to be tracking the kinds of ways that humans are teaching them."

In fact, a new study reveals that canines follow commands such as pointing or gazing so well, that dogs and human toddlers "exhibited similar patterns of correlation in social cognitive skills."

When a treat is hidden underneath a container, the tester points to a certain one, Ben is able to follow his cue and get the treat.

Santos explains, "Dogs realize that pointing conveys important information and in doing so dogs are able to learn from the cues that we give them." April says, " We weren’t sure which way he would go and it was really surprising to me that he pays so much attention to what actions that were being used ."

Dr. Santos says it's not just pointing, either. "They seem to process information our emotions," adding, "like when we’re happy and sad, they seem to know something about our emotional expressions."

Dr. Santos also says that canines can be a great model for human learning. But, most of all, "I think a better understanding as to how dogs learn and the kinds of way that they connect with humans can only help us to treat our dogs better."

And now that she knows just how socially savvy Ben really is, April says she's even more proud of her precious pooch.

Experts say you can even test your dog's social savvy on your own at home, by hiding a treat and pointing to or looking at that treat's location to see if your dog follows.